Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

Camilo – Favorito

[5]-orito…


[Video]
[5.00]

Olivia Rafferty: “Favorito” just makes me want to pour one out for all the summer songs which aren’t getting a summer right now. The kind of songs that you hear on the rental car radio once and it becomes the anthem of a trip. They aren’t innovative or extraordinary, but everything that exists around that initial listen creates a kind of magic which washes back with every repeat. “Favorito” might be one of those. A lockdown play is enjoyable, but I imagine a lot of its charm comes from discovering it in the wild.
[4]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: The music video feels a bit like seeing that one perfect couple from school, and feeling resentful of how disgustingly cute and affectionate they are. Listening to the song, however, is a different story. This is a proper love song about cherishment and admiration, and Camilo’s honey voice sells every second. 
[6]

Alfred Soto: Camilo sounds mousy, as if he hopes the beloved will slice him some cheese. The program, set to “Despacito,” does him no favors. 
[4]

Katherine St Asaph: The tenor, lyric and arrangement can all spike one’s blood sugar after just five notes. Combine them, and it only takes three.
[3]

Scott Mildenhall: Not enough songs slip in a line as self-aware as “y no te me rias porque esto es en serio.” Simultaneously, it constructs a protective barrier around Camilo’s corniness and provides a face-value boost to its sincerity. He knows how it sounds to say that “your mouth is my favourite food,” albeit not well enough not to say it, and therein lies the key to “Favorito”: he means well.
[6]

Kylo Nocom: Camilo’s coy tenor allows for awful metaphors to go down easier than expected.
[7]

Sunday, July 5th, 2020

Bonus Tracks for Week Ending July 5, 2020

Saturday, July 4th, 2020

Jessie Ware – Save a Kiss

Something special and something rare…


[Video][Website]
[8.00]

Alfred Soto: From the hint of the “Jive Talkin'” melody in the strings and the Moroder-ized sequencer pulses to Jessie Ware’s long simmer, “Save a Kiss” doubles as a history of electronic dance music and a sensational track. At last she abandons the sumptuous but somnolent performances for kinetic care, and I’ll take the latter in the time it takes to yank me onto the dance floor.
[10]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: Propulsive, coruscant like crystal, and powered by the butterflies in your stomach when you’re around your crush, “Save a Kiss” continues Jessie Ware’s streak of modern pop euphoria.
[8]

Michael Hong: There’s probably an alternate world where this was left as a pop song, the kind that blends pop music and soul music into one and sounds a little bit like “Alone.” In that world, I probably like it a lot. I like how vulnerable it all feels, the way she sings “save a kiss for me tonight” as both an apology and a bit of late-night seduction. But “Save a Kiss” was written for What’s Your Pleasure?, not Glasshouse, and as the record’s poppiest dance tune, a lot is gained without losing much, if anything. The track’s dance structure allows Ware to reuse the post-chorus and flip it into a repeated mantra that feels like devoted worship rather than resorting to writing some overly sappy bridge. And while her voice could afford to go bigger, it allows you to luxuriate in what’s happening underneath: arpeggiating synths, swooping strings, and that demanding pulse, all bringing a sense of urgency, like there’s no way that one kiss could ever wait. I like this version a little bit more.
[8]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: In the context of What’s Your Pleasure, “Save a Kiss” represents a sort of compromise — not as inventive or playful in its arrangements as many of the album tracks, but not as straight-ahead in its dance as “Adore You” or “Spotlight.” But even shorn from its place in Ware’s broader work, “Save a Kiss” feels caught between worlds in the way all good disco revival does, the tension of the strings building through the verses until they cascade down in lines that are at once formalist throwbacks and alive with energy. It’s a four-minute exercise in potential energy, coils and springs winding and unwinding in a perpetual motion machine of a dance track.
[9]

Nina Lea: At a time when so many other artists are trying their hands at synthy, eighties-inspired dance pop, Jessie Ware continually stands out for how effortlessly she inhabits the sonic landscape of her songs. Listening to a Jessie Ware song is like relaxing into the passenger seat as you stream down the highway, safe in the knowledge that her reliably capable, confident hands are on the wheel.
[7]

Katie Gill: Look, I know artists need to release music videos to promote their song but it feels like we reached the peak of “multicam quarantine synchronized dance videos” like… a month ago? But let’s talk about the song. It’s a very lovely dance song! It’s a charming dance song that I expect will end up getting some comparisons to Robyn or Dua Lipa because there can be only one dance-pop artist that makes solid use of 1970s disco strings! Charming doesn’t necessarily mean “exciting,” though.
[6]

Scott Mildenhall: Some might be sniffy about the surfeit of productions like Jules Buckley’s Ibiza Classics over the past few years, but there is a definite through line from Chic being refused entry to Studio 54 and £45-a-pop orchestral performances of “Pjanoo” in the grounds of Shropshire stately homes. By bringing Buckley on board here, Jessie Ware proves the creative potential of that thread, confirming what Nile Rodgers could have told you almost half a century ago. Tension, anticipation and exasperation symphonise with the trappings of prestige, just for the night.
[8]

Friday, July 3rd, 2020

Blackpink – How You Like That

Presumptuous question gets humble pi…


[Video][Website]
[3.14]

Jessica Doyle: Why are we still talking about this group? Their music has been consistently shoddy and repetitive. The books haven’t been closed yet on the myriad accusations against YG on prostitution procurement and police bribery, despite various Korean prosecutorial offices’ keen efforts. The performers, though they seem like nice young women, aren’t orders of magnitude better than their peers. There’s nothing here except a hype train. Is it accelerationism? The idea that capitalism has warped everyone’s minds to the point that only nihilist destruction can improve anything, and maybe if we hype up this kind of dreck, people will either realize how shallow and empty pop music can be and start turning their attention to organizing, or collapse in their own stupidity? I don’t yet have a competing explanation as to why this is the Korean female group we all suddenly feel obliged to discuss.
[1]

Nina Lea: “How You Like That” deserves an award for most incongruous combination of the greatest number of different songs that had already been rejected by other K-pop groups; it’s like all the producers were assigned a school group project but none of them coordinated on their PowerPoint slides. Obviously the utter incoherence is kind of fun, but in a Eurovision-long-shot-entry-from-Belarus kind of way, and certainly not befitting artists hyped as the top girl group in K-pop.
[3]

Katie Gill: Is this a comeback? Blackpink’s career has been so all over the place that you can probably call half of their recent singles “comeback” singles. This is their most recent, and it… feels like a worse version of their last comeback single, mixed with some Itzy-brand obnoxiousness. I really want to like this song, but it just feels like a big bunch of something we’ve already heard before.
[5]

Alex Clifton: It’s the same single as “DDU-DU DDU-DU” and “Kill This Love.” Jennie raps, Rosé and Jisoo swap off in the pre-chorus, and the chorus proper is an electro-melody. Rinse and repeat, but swap out Lisa for Jennie. Throw in a dance break in the last thirty seconds. Bingo! You have the newest Blackpink single! Get yourself a writing credit next to Teddy! And yet this will tide me over until Blackpink releases their first full-length LP this September after four flipping years. Go figure.
[5]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: Hook, pre-chorus, and chorus all glide together seamlessly, working like parts of an engine. I’m no expert in cars, but in that context “How You Like That” is probably an Inferno Red Kia Soul. 
[6]

Michael Hong: It’s the kitchen sink approach in action, a slew of thoughts and ideas randomly stitched together, with a sprinkle of Blackpink’s touch: obnoxiously loud, annoyingly bright, and ill-fitting with current tastes. Groups have enough trouble making this approach work when the pieces are good and these ideas — Disney villain score to thin balladry to a chorus tasteless even by early 2010’s Skrillex standards within the first minute — should have been gutted even before you consider supergluing them together. But Blackpink’s greatest failing has always been the way they end their tracks, usually, a slapdash chorus or an underwritten left turn that squanders any momentum they’ve built. This one’s no different; more of the track is messy noise, like watching four headless chickens run amuck.
[2]

Kayla Beardslee: This drop makes me want to gouge out my eyes. Yes, my eyes, not my ears — why should my reaction be reasonable when this single was put together without an ounce of common sense? Maybe if “How You Like That” was abrasive for experimental reasons, I’d be less inclined to call it… oh, let’s say a borderline unlistenable byproduct of laziness, greed, and desperation. But unfortunately it’s the worst sort of bad music, the kind that has no ambitions beyond fulfilling commercial potential and so is not beholden to concepts like “good taste” or “artistic merit.” Previous Blackpink tracks have recycled the same tropes as this one (EDM-drop structure with a pumped-up final chorus, brassy production, shouted lyrics), but it’s like screenshotting a screenshot: the iterations are just getting worse, and I think the unoriginality has finally worn too thin to tolerate. Of course, “How You Like That” isn’t so much a song as a device meant to keep the world invested in Blackpink, but the irony is that to keep their career alive in this way is to kill it, too. If the group stays locked in the dungeon to maintain their air of mystery and desirability, the fanbase will wither; but if they continue this career path, where the girls are given insultingly awful singles to grin and bear, then those who care about Blackpink’s actual music (including the casual listeners that push artists into mainstream success) will give up and fade away, leaving only blindly faithful stans and a group spiraling towards irrelevancy. In almost a full year at TSJ, I’ve never given out this score, but this feels as good a time as any to do so — it’s what this soulless song, released by a soulless company in a soulless world, deserves.
[0]

Friday, July 3rd, 2020

DaBaby ft. Roddy Ricch – Rockstar

Beats Mr Malone, no data on Dappy, but let’s not even get into Bizarre


[Video]
[5.67]

Alfred Soto: Plenty of artists have released three albums in fifteen months. Many have been insouciant about repeating themselves. Few have repeated themselves to less attractive effect than DaBaby, who’s filled fifteen months with scandals expected from older stars. He’s a star, you’re not, get in his face and he’ll sock you. 
[4]

Oliver Maier: It was only a matter of time before Roddy Ricch returned to decimate the charts anew with his diet Thugger schtick, and who better to team up with than DaBaby, the Hot 100’s enfant terrible (which is French for “absolute mad lad”). It’s a shame that the latter’s energy and charisma are routinely wasted on the same handful of themes; there’s no willingness to engage or even have fun with the rockstar thing beyond a line about guitars. Post Malone at least managed a Jim Morrison joke.
[5]

Olivia Rafferty: “Rockstar” is a seesaw, dipping into distorted bass and driven lyrics which merge into “I am strong, I am strong, I am strong” determination before teetering over into lilting harp arpeggios and lump-in-the-throat autotune sweetness. Honestly I don’t see much of a stretch in comparing something like this to a PC Music tune. It’s got that same kind of heavy/light contradiction that A. G. Cook might take inspiration from. “You can’t touch me” pop for 2020.
[7]

Nortey Dowuona: Flatly plucked guitar cycles around silly putty bass being hit by DaBaby, who is completely focused on not letting it bubble up again, but Roddy makes sure to ride it around, leaving DaBaby annoyed, sitting down, pissed. Finally, Roddy brings back the silly putty drums, by which time DaBaby has calmed, and is plucking guitars for his daughter.
[6]

Tobi Tella: I shouldn’t be surprised by flash-in-the-pan rappers anymore, but the turnaround on DaBaby being cool was almost impressive. Barely a year after he blew up, he’s getting trashed for his album on Twitter, involved in multiple scandals, and is somehow the least memorable artist on a song with Camila Cabello. This avoids the pitfalls he’s been falling into, with a different flow and even some brief returns to the more heartfelt bars of “INTRO”, with a catchy hook. So why don’t I care? Everything on paper says this should be good, but just like another rockstar, it’s too flaccid and stagnant for its own good. It’s probably not a good sign for Baby how excited I was when Roddy Ricch showed up.
[5]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: One of those number one hits that comes when an artist has reached the height of their popularity having passed their artistic peak. This isn’t the most interesting or compelling DaBaby track, but the hooks, the flow, and Roddy Ricch collaboration are still all strong enough that I can’t think of a reason to complain. 
[7]

Friday, July 3rd, 2020

Black Eyed Peas ft. Ozuna and J. Rey Soul – Mamacita

Visions of them dividends…


[Video][Website]
[3.88]

Andy Hutchins: I strongly believe that no one without a financial interest in the Peas asked for Translation, and three months of the droning “Ritmo” on the radio has made me pine for the bizarro Jaden Smith verse from the remix to break up the tedium. Say this for “Mamacita”: Will’s verse is mostly unobjectionable, Taboo and apl are placed where their forgettability is a good thing, and Ozuna is more engaged than J. Balvin was. Toss in a passable Fergie impression from the band member who replaced Fergie but is getting her own credit here for some reason, and this is a step up.
[4]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: Ozuna puts in a decent effort. If you overlook some gratuitous lyrical choices, J. Rey Soul provides a strong enough hook. Unfortunately though, there are no words in English or Spanish that can adequately describe the aural torture that is will.i.am. Taboo and apl.de.ap continue to exist. 
[1]

Olivia Rafferty: The title hook just gives me this great image of will.i.am in the studio holding a mic to his face and drilling out the “MAMACITA, MAMACITA, QUÉ BONITA” lyric in one take and then sitting down with a self-accomplished “nice.” Classic Black Eyed Peas were always adept at infuriating hooks which feel stupidly simple (gotta get that boom boom booooom) but stick like burst bubblegum to the face. New member J. Rey Soul has a timbre that serves eerie moments of “is that Fergie?” but before that thought fully forms, she sweeps in and stamps her own sound on the track. Combine it all with a healthy feature for Ozuna, and you’ve got a solid blend.
[6]

Michael Hong: A track built to appeal to the Latin audience, where every option was chosen for convenience: the occasional substitution of one lyric for a Spanish word, the Madonna sample in lieu of their own generic Latin-trap beat, and the use of one of the most distinct Latino voices to offset the loss of the only member with personality.
[3]

Leah Isobel: Black Eyed Peas’ trend-hopping is as shameless as ever, and there is a part of me that will always find their gleefully decadent capitalist anthems endearing. Still, this is pretty nothingy, and the “La Isla Bonita” melody and “One Dance” piano make it feel like a copy of other artists’ copies of non-American musical styles.
[4]

Alex Clifton: It’s catchy and like… fine? I didn’t really want a Black Eyed Peas comeback in 2020, but it is thankfully better than “Dirty Bit” (a low bar, but one worth mentioning). It’s so nondescript though, something that plays in the club in the background but you don’t pay any attention to it because you’re too busy trying to talk to other people over the beat. (This is, of course, assuming a world post-quarantine where clubbing still happens.)
[4]

Scott Mildenhall: It’s an enduring curiosity that will.i.am displays weird instincts more often than they actually congeal into something impressive. Even here you get the unspoken comedy of him awkwardly repeating the title, but as is most often the case, his primary instinct is to pander, with transparent desperation. “Mamacita” is functionally fine, but no more than that. It’s aiming to be an international big mega radio smasher, when if only it were aiming for INTERNATIONAL BIG MEGA RADIO SMASHER.
[5]

Katherine St Asaph: From that future boom boom boom to yesterday, quite far away.
[4]

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

Sun-El Musician ft. Msaki – Ubomi Abumanga

Another year, another Sun-El Musician track in the sidebar…


[Video]
[7.89]

Alfred Soto: Listen here, Sun-El, cease and desist. We’re tired of these shimmering puddles of warm rose water that pour from this spigot of yours. We don’t deserve them, not when if we believed in civilization we would’ve quarantined the fuck up for months so that we could dance to “Ubomi Abumanga” in late summer.
[8]

Pedro João Santos: Sunbaked Afrohouse is the land of Sun-El Musician, where he made his full-length debut, Africa to the World: transportive and anthemic at its best. “Ubomi Abumanga” (which seems to translate to ‘Life Has Not Stopped‘), reaching for a similar paintbox, billows out in sterner waves. A minor piano note beckons each new wave of galloping percussion and solemn melody, while the sub-bass choreographs a dreamlike frequency underneath. Mindful of club-induced stasis, but not that far removed from the soulful songwriting of “Akanameli,” it could be an unassuming bid for a summer hit — but one that knows to unite with Msaki’s empathetic voice, and could dispense with the triumphant trumpets straight out of 2014.
[6]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: “Ubomi Abumanga,” like much of Sun-El Musician’s production, runs on a feeling of thoroughgoing, almost cosmic momentum. The soft beeps and beat never change, yet they feel like they’re constantly evolving into something larger and more beautiful, traveling to unknown places of beatific peace. I don’t speak isiXhosa, but this sonic background was enough to tell me that Msaki’s words are affirmations of our body and spirit — confirmed by a translation she approved. Her voice is arresting as she sings, “It’s been a long time/You still have a purpose.” The title “Ubomi Abumanga” itself roughly translates to “Life hasn’t stopped” or “Life continues,” and carried by the production and Msaki’s dulcet voice, these messages are overwhelming and even tear-inducing–even more if you contextualize the song within Msaki’s message of keeping hope in the face of violence towards black and queer people.
[9]

David Moore: Glittering, limpid, a slow, transcendent build that moves me at its leisure.
[8]

Nortey Dowuona: A shimmying drum program circles a small girl plucking one note at the piano. Her mother, Msaki, sits outside with her and joins in by playing a slow bass line, while her father, Sun-El, creates a synth progression in his study upstairs. Msaki begins to sing, her voice low and carefully spun as her older daughter begins plucking at her cousin’s gifted ukulele. The sun sets in the distance facing them as Sun-El adds his brother’s trumpet. Then Msaki lays down her bass synth as the rest of the family continues to play. She goes inside and pours some orange juice, joined by Sun-El. Her older daughter goes off to her cousin’s house to work on a new ukelele song. Finally, the small girl walks back inside, shadowed by the drums.
[10]

Michael Hong: Every note is imbued with gentle warmth — “Ubomi Abumanga” was made for daydreaming, for sleeping in late on weekend mornings, and for feeling the sun dance across your skin.
[8]

Kylo Nocom: Sun-El Musician’s track record is so impressive that the prospect of his making complete duds feels less likely than his sound eventually losing potency — a potentially worse fate. Msaki’s presence is a missed opportunity: her voice can command the space of an entire room, but here she seems reduced to an unsuited auxiliary role. “Ubomi Abumanga” ticks off all the boxes of a typical Sun-El track but lacks his characteristic craftsmanship: atmosphere without anything to ground it. At least the horns are nice.
[6]

Katherine St Asaph: Diaphanous yet substantial; very structured, with a perfectly timed build-up and release, yet unbounded by time. Put it on repeat and watch entire hours dissolve.
[7]

Oliver Maier: I happened across NASA’s ten-year timelapse of the sun just after I clicked play on this song for the first time, a visual so appropriate that I am mildly convinced that divine intervention had something to do with it. In the video, the sun lights up, dies down, and does plenty of other things I am not knowledgeable enough to describe, but mostly it rotates. After five minutes, I feel as though I am looking at something both the same and fundamentally different from when I started. “Ubomi Abumanga” is similar. It begins and ends with what is technically the exact same beat, and yet they are not really the same. As moments they’re distinct, made unique by their placement in time and everything Sun-El and Msaki accomplish between those two points. Rather than push it in any direction, Sun-El simply allows the song to rotate in place and reveal new lights and textures over time. We’re fortunate to be able to bask in its warmth.
[9]

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020

Topic ft. A7S – Breaking Me

From topical to… topic-al…


[Video]
[4.00]

Tobi Tella: Proof that men with deep voices can make completely empty pop music too! I’m glad barriers continue to be broken in 2020.
[3]

Thomas Inskeep: More of the variety of super-generic house-turned-pop that the UK loves so much these days, “generic” being the key word in that descriptor.
[4]

Alfred Soto: House? More like “The fuck out of my house” amirite
[3]

Katherine St Asaph: Dua Lipa – “The Boxer” (Male Version)
[5]

Will Adams: Normally your “la-la-la” hook is there to enhance your anonymous, bouncy house tune, not hinder it.
[4]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: The melodramatic break-up lyrics, “Kun For Mig” beat, and la-la-la-lie hook are all right in my wheelhouse, but the end product of “Breaking Me” feels less than the sum of its parts. Something about A7S’s voices rings as disingenuous, and this feels like an exercise in pandering. 
[4]

Scott Mildenhall: The audacity with which this gives Duke Dumont a taste of his own medicine is the best thing about it, though it does have other charms. Every line is as indelibly melodic as it is lyrically forgettable, and there’s a craftsman’s dignity to that. In all its gruff solemnity, “Breaking Me” seems laser-guided to transcend linguistic barriers, and through the skill of all involved, it succeeds.
[7]

Olivia Rafferty: Doesn’t deviate from a connect-the-dots late 2010’s pop tune. It’s a “blue-eyed soul” over house music formula that’s developed over the last decade. So once you’ve heard the opening lines, you know how it’s going to play out.
[2]

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

Beyoncé – BLACK PARADE

When I was / a young Bey…


[Video][Website]
[7.00]

Tobi Tella: It’s messy and filled with overlapping ideas, but from such a calculated artist, it feels so refreshing. Hearing Beyonce word vomit all her feelings and pride for her heritage is infinitely more interesting than a focus grouped, corporate attempt at Empowerment™.
[7]

Olivia Rafferty: Once you dive past the marching band swells and the trap hits reminiscent of her Coachella performance, you can hear that “Black Parade” is lyrically supercharged with powerful imagery. It’s a march, yes, but it takes the Black Lives Matter protest march and reframes it as a journey back to a Black history which has been forgotten, discarded and colonised by white society. Through this process of reclamation, the capitalist American Dream (which is the American Nightmare for so many) is being dismantled: picket fences are snatched up and repurposed into protest signs. Beyoncé adds more by charging the song with emblems of African heritage like she “charge[s her] crystals in the full moon,” from the baobab tree to Yoruban waist beads. Going deeper into themes of spirituality, Beyoncé calls upon the Yoruban Goddesses Yemaya and Oshun as patrons of this march. The mention of these water deities creates a sense of re-baptism as the “drip” of motherland/melanin rains down on her and her growing march. However, although ancestry and tradition is a huge part of this song, Beyonce is aware that she cannot march back, back, back to a pre-colonized Africa. But as the Black Parade progresses it becomes clear that she is using that imagined place as a well from which to draw up a new future of peace, reparations and power.
[7]

Joshua Copperman: As a statement released when the purpose of celebrity (billionaire celebrities in particular) is under discussion, after Beyonce has spent four years cashing in her goodwill on underwhelming side projects… it’s complicated, and these tweets and essays dissect the place of someone like Beyoncé in an era increasingly moving past even her most radical statements. As a song, it’s probably her best post-Lemonade.  Derek Dixie’s production is like a less cluttered “Formation,” including flutes and a horn section but leaving space for the person actually leading this parade. I wish Bey was mixed a little bit higher, because a lot of these moments are as memorable as “surfbort” ever was. The first thing that strikes me is Beyoncé’s humor, like the image of her catwalking six feet apart from other models in a Hazmat suit or “Crack a big smile ding.” Elsewhere, “Let the ghosts chit-chat” is brilliant imagery, and the enunciation of “Mansa Musa” alone is more memorable than anything on Everything is Love. “Black Parade” has all the makings of another quotable, analysis-ready hit on the level of “Formation.” Yet as I write this, the song is sitting in the lower part of the top 40 — maybe the goodwill ran out. Maybe the prospect of succeeding in a capitalist society, essentially her MO from the last decade, feels more impossible than ever. For what it’s worth, there’s a lot she’s doing within said capitalist society: a massive star paying tribute to modern activists or promoting Black-owned businesses still feels novel to me even as it feeds into a more intricate conversation about Black capitalism I’m not equipped to have. For now, however long celebrity remains a thing, it feels like we could do worse.
[7]

Thomas Inskeep: She sings, she raps, and the lyrics are interesting, but the trap beat underpinning it all does nothing.
[5]

Nortey Dowuona: Beyoncé sits back on a chair made of bouncing bass and looks upon her domain, a horn procession forming around her toes, wondering how she could not protect her domain. Solange sits down next to her, with Standing on the Corner on her left shoulder, with Gio Escobar playing the piccolo. They huddle whispering for a few seconds, before Bey gets up and smashes down the police forces of Louisville, especially the men who killed Breonna. Satisfied for a bit, she sits down next to Big Floyd and they start making a star message for his daughter.
[8]

Alfred Soto: Whatever its content, the vocal performance is a tour de force: insouciant, teasing, fervid. Iconicity has not been hell on her music. I can imagine what an isolated vocal track sounds like.
[8]

Katherine St Asaph:End of Time” revised with new swagger, unsparing specificity, and better lines (“make a picket sign of your picket fence” is so neatly packaged I would have sworn it’d already been gentrified-blandified, but no, there’s just this). More presence, too. Having done her hitmaker dues, she’s now free to be less poppy and more pointed; having canonized herself as a power-diva vocalist with 4 (and “Halo,” Dreamgirls, etc.) she’s free to be looser, more slyly charismatic, more constantly morphing. (It’s no longer surprising that she raps; now the surprise is just how many ways.) “Black Parade,” like more Beyoncé singles than you’d think, is a product of the same industry infrastructure as her labelmates — songwriters include Kim Krysiuk, recipient of one of Ariana Grande’s 7 rings, and NOVA Wav (“Loveeeeeee Song,” most of the Teyana Taylor album, uhhhh Lukas Graham, and Beyoncé’s Lion King songs, perhaps why they’re back for another Disney track). But seldom are such assemblies given to a vocalist so transformative. Put her anydamnwhere; she’ll make it hers.
[7]

Monday, June 29th, 2020

AJ Tracey ft. MoStack – Dinner Guest

In which we all wish we could hit the club…


[Video]
[6.86]

Katherine St Asaph: A ROT-13 version of ’90s dance; two artists who are just present enough, producing evocative-enough filler for a club atmosphere. Remember atmosphere?
[7]

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: What perfect filler for waiting in line for the bathroom at the club!
[6]

Tobi Tella: Campy and surprisingly witty, the way this toes the line into sheer ridiculousness but never fully crosses over is amusing enough for me to ignore that its music for guys who smoke cigs right outside the off-license.
[7]

Oliver Maier: AJ Tracey and MoStack have been a winning combination before, and they benefit even more here from the sprinkles of silliness. I wish “Dinner Guest” felt a tad less paint-by-numbers, but the punchlines are grin-inducing enough to forgive the weaker rhymes, and the Nightcrawlers sample flip is ingenious.
[7]

Thomas Inskeep: Smart of these British rappers to ride a UK classic as iconic as Nightcrawlers’ ’95 smash “Push the Feeling On,” as they themselves are very, very, not-likely-to-ever-cross-over-in-the-US British. They’re also solid rappers with voices I really enjoy — and this is their second great collab, after appearing on Steel Banglez’ “Fashion Week” last year. Both of ’em know how to ride on the rhythm.
[7]

Nortey Dowuona: MoStack leaps over the circling bass drums and synth Beyblades without a care, while AJ tries to get in close and gets cut on his fingers, feet and neck.
[8]

Scott Mildenhall: An agreeably bland accompaniment to a timeless sample: if your parents loved the Nightcrawlers, then they sure might love the Jorja Smith Crawlers. “Ladbroke Grove” showed AJ Tracey’s knack for similarly broad-brush appeal in bloom, but here in more laidback mode, he’s that bit less engaging.
[6]